2021 Iosco County Fair boasts one of the best turnouts to date

HALE – The theme of the 77th annual Iosco County Fair, held from July 26-31 in Hale, was “Champion of Champions.” Not only did the myriad of exhibitors stay true to this title but, with President Kelby Ruckle reporting some of the greatest attendance in the fair’s history, the event itself also lived up to the 2021 theme.

On the final day of festivities this past Saturday, Ruckle shared that the entire fair week had been one of the best yet – with the turnout on Wednesday, in particular, being among the most notable to date in the long-running occasion.

It was on that day when fair goers could enjoy an open speed horse show, the non-market beef and dairy judging, a robotics demonstration by area youth and the Motor Home Demo Derby & Night of Destruction event in the grandstands.

There were a number of other activities that day which also went on several different times throughout the course of the six-days-long celebration, ensuring visitors could get in on the fun no matter what day they showed up to the Iosco County Fairgrounds.

This included presentations of the Urias Stunt, Thrill and Acrobat, as well as the Comedy Farm Magic Review shows; daily drawings for children’s bicycles; live music; games, rides, food and prizes, arranged by Anderson Midways; various shows in the horse arena; a scavenger hunt; monster truck rides; children’s fingerprinting with the Iosco County Sheriff’s Posse; and exhibits from those of all ages, in such categories as painting, photography, horticulture, home economics and, of course, livestock.

Related to this, Ruckle said that the July 29 livestock auction was a great success. Numerous businesses and individuals show their support during this county fair tradition, by purchasing livestock from the youth who commit their time and energy to raising the animals, in preparation of being showcased at the fair.

In addition to steers, sheep, hogs and goats, on display this past week were also chickens, rabbits, ducks and geese.

As for the other ongoing options available through the duration of the fair, vendors were on site selling everything from food, jewelry and clothing, to toys, home décor and yard art. Face painting, a petting zoo and pony rides were also among the offerings, as were informational/educational booths. Those providing such resources and materials included representatives of Iosco County Farm Bureau, Up North Prevention, Hale Garden Club and Iosco Regional Educational Service Agency.

Additional activities hosted during fair week were the heavy and lightweight pony pulls; a tractor parade; a comical round of Cow Pie Bingo, which doubled as a fundraiser for the livestock area; a Cow Costume Contest Parade; a free breakfast; a bike safety demonstration; a root beer float social, with proceeds benefitting the Livestock Building Fund; a chicken BBQ dinner and a hog roast dinner, both by the Future Farmers of America (FFA); an FFA silent auction; an Iosco County 4-H silent auction; a pedal pull; a cornhole tournament; a quilt raffle by the Hale Country Quilters; and the Off Road Demo Derby Bump N Run in the grandstands.

Along with multiple other games and contests, the fairgrounds were again host to the Barnyard Olympics and Junior Barnyard Olympics, which took place on July 29. For this, groups of four – who often model silly outfits which are just as outrageous as their team names – compete for medals during such challenges as hay wagon racing, sheep herding, duck racing, bale jumping and stick pony racing.

Given many people’s work schedules, it’s to be expected that the fairgrounds may be busier on Friday and Saturday. And even though attendees had plenty of chances to take in all that the event had to offer, they wasted no time reveling in the entertainment, as the opening night activities on Monday also drew in a big crowd.

Following the flag dedication ceremony which officially kicked off the fair earlier in the day, a highlight that evening was the grandstand event, presented by Michigan Mud Jam. The bleachers were full of spectators who came out to see the mega truck races, side by side races and freestyle competition – during which one of the massive machines demolished a motorhome, generating enthusiastic cheers from the audience.

July 26 was also the first opportunity for visitors to watch both the Comedy Farm Magic Review and the Urias Stunt, Thrill and Acrobat shows.

The interactive Comedy Farm Magic Review – which has been showcased on several major television networks – featured illusionist Jonathon LaChance as “Farmer John,” along with his helpers “Miss Jaz” and “Clucky” the talking chicken. The group presented jokes, magic tricks and even some agricultural information.

Farming is in LaChance’s blood and, with his parents working for Heinz, he and his siblings helped pick tomatoes from their property while they were growing up. Rather than take over the family business, LaChance favored the world of magic – and based on the reactions he gets from the crowds he performs for, he made the right career choice.

This was evident with Brennen Peters, 8, Brownstown, who attended Monday’s show with his family. This included his aunt, who they were visiting in Hale, and who shared that the whole family was having a blast.

When Farmer John requested some audience aid, Peters quickly threw his hand in the air and made his way on stage, where he helped with a couple magic tricks and remained a good sport during the jokes that came his way. For instance, when asked what his favorite animal is, the answer he gave was octopus. The host was quick to playfully point out the unusual response, given that they were at a county fair. But it was all in good fun and Peters rolled with it like a champ, enhancing the experience even further for onlookers.

Ruckle shared that he had also been hearing plenty of positive feedback about the Urias Stunt, Thrill and Acrobat Show, which is now in its fifth generation of family performers.

The public’s input was easily understandable, considering the strength, flexibility and coordination which was displayed by the team’s acrobats and hula hoop performer, as well as the aerialists who dangled dozens of feet in the air while showcasing their skills.

Capping off the performances were the motorcyclists who entered the “Globe of Death,” measuring just a mere 16 feet in diameter. Starting with one rider looping throughout the globe, which was impressive enough, a second motorcyclist soon came in, then a third. As if being within inches of each other and reaching speeds of up to 50 miles per hour wasn’t enough, the trio was then joined in the globe by Jodie Urias. When most people’s first instinct may be to crouch down and make themselves as small as possible, Urias boldly stood in the center of the orb, with arms outstretched, sporting a smile the entire time.

According to the stunt troupe’s website, the Urias Globe of Death was the first to ever feature a female rider, the first to add a woman to the center of the globe and the first to feature three bikes at once. The original globe has been used by the family since it was built in 1912, by Jose Urias.

The fair started out in style this year and the finale day of the event on July 31 also followed suit, as the venue bustled with activity.

This included such hands-on agricultural education events as cow milking, butter making, horse leading and Barnyard Bingo. For the latter, instead of letters and numbers, the players were hoping to check off such cute categories on their game cards as pot-bellied pig, henhouse, beehive and Aberdeen Angus cow.

The grandstand event on Saturday was a professional rodeo, presented by Flying Star Rodeo Productions, which started just prior to the County Fair Talent Search that was put on by Alpha Media and 94.5 The Moose.

The occasion wouldn’t be complete without the Iosco County Fair Parade and, among the sights during the procession through downtown Hale, were large pieces of farming equipment, representatives of local businesses and members of the Hale Area Veterans, Iosco County Sheriff’s Office, Plainfield Township Fire Department, Hale Garden Club, Hale Area FISH and Iosco County 4-H.

Numerous sponsors also showed that they are among the “Champion of Champions,” by supporting the fair. This included Hale Assembly of God Church; Don and Cheryl McDonell, agents at Scofield Real Estate; Wilson Trucking & Excavating, LLC and Wilson & Sons Septic Cleaning; Scofield Real Estate; Friends of the Fair donors; and Hale Area FISH; who, along with their other involvement at the event, covered the gate fees for the public on all six days. Their efforts paid off, with Ruckle reporting that there were lots of happy faces during fair week, which he remarked is always good to see.